Belfast Telegraph

Bill to introduce same-sex marriage and liberalise abortion in Northern Ireland passes Commons vote

MPs voted to change abortion laws last week
MPs voted to change abortion laws last week

MPs have approved a series of changes made by peers to the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill, including on same-sex marriage and abortion reforms, by 328 votes to 65 - a majority of 263.

The bill returns to the Lords and should be tabled again in the Commons on Monday as it progresses toward becoming law.

During the debate in the Commons Northern Ireland minister John Penrose said the Bill had begun as a simple one but had come to resemble a "Christmas tree covered in baubles".

It was originally intended to ensure continuing good governance of government departments and defer the legal deadline for the Secretary of State to call an Assembly election. There has been an onus for a election to be called since the parties failed to form an Executive since the snap election in March 2017.

Mr Penrose said an amendment which prevented suspending parliament to force through a no-deal Brexit - "weaponised" the bill, "in a way which we usually, rightly, try to avoid, but it could easily put us through all of that grief for no good reason at all if it fails to become law".

Northern Ireland Secretary of State Karen Bradley abstained on the vote. There have been reports she is in Northern Ireland to chair all-party talks.

DUP MP Ian Paisley described the day's proceedings as an "outrage".

"This is supposed to be a debate on the Northern Ireland executive formation and has now been hijacked and turned into something to do with Brexit and every issue under the sun except the formation of the executive - which now looks more unlikely as a result of this piece of legislation," he told MPs.

Ahead of the vote, the Commons heard how MPs were "racing back" to take part.

SNP MP Patrick Grady (Glasgow North) stood in for his party's Commons leader Pete Wishart at business questions, explaining: "He is racing back in breathless anticipation of the Lords amendments."

Mr Wishart chairs the Scottish Affairs Committee and has been visiting Portugal to better understand their approach to drugs.

Writing on Twitter, Mr Wishart said: "On way back from select committee visit so no outing at business questions today. It will be more than capably handled by @GradySNP (Patrick Grady)."

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